President Yoweri Museveni has called on the Saudi visitors to attract more investors to Uganda especially the road construction sector.
He was on Friday at State House, Nakasero meeting with the visiting Saudi Arabia Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdel Al-Jubeir who extended to the President warm greetings from King Salman bin Abdal Aziz al Saud.
The President proposed to the Saudi Government to get interested in facilitating and joining the construction of roads in Uganda.
Uganda road construction sector is currently dominated mostly European and Chinese-owned firms like China Communications Construction Ltd, Mortal Engil , Dott Services, and others.
Uganda is on a road construction binge. The first priority on the National Development Plan is to improve the condition of roads through tarmacking and maintenance. In the 2015/16 Financial Year, up to 400kms of roads are to be bituminised, 2,600kms of unpaved roads and 120km of urban paved roads are to be maintained. Currently, there are 16 road projects under way totalling to 1,143 kilometres. Major modern highways are to be built with public expenditure on roads expected to hit Shs2.3 trillion (approx. US$630 million).
President Museveni, who warmly welcomed the delegation, also told the visiting Saudi Minister that Uganda plans to develop an integrated steel industry by ensuring the processing of the abundantly available iron ore in the country. He stressed that Uganda wants to have finished goods locally produced so that the country cuts down on the cost of transporting various items in their raw state for export. He informed the Minister and his delegation that there is need to process within the country agro- products such as fruits and grains. He called on the Saudi visitors to attract more investors to Uganda so that the entrepreneurs may also tap into the wide range of processing ventures in Uganda. He also proposed to the Saudi Government to get interested in facilitating and joining the construction of roads in Uganda.
The visiting Saudi Minister Al-Jubeir said that the Saudi Government is ready to invest in projects that are in Uganda’s interest.
The meeting that was attended, among others, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sam Kutesa, State Minister for International Affairs, Mr. Okello Oryem and Ugandas Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Yahaya Semuddu.
Why roads are the preferred means of transport
The Ministry of Works & Transport and by extension government has been variously accused of focusing too much on road transport at the expense of other means of transport. This is true and it has a basis. Over 90% of cargo and passengers in Uganda move by road. Road transport accounts for more than 90% of the country’s transport needs. In nominal terms the road network carries an average 40,000 million passenger –km per year compared with 9 million passenger –m by air, 6 million passenger –km by water and non by rail. Therefore road transport is by far the commonest and most readily available means of travel for most Ugandans. Although railway would be a cheaper option especially linking the country to the ort of Mombasa for important export trade purposes, the cost of investment in the same venture quite prohibitive. But even though government was to consider other means of transport, investment in road would be an option that would not be ignored because of its importance and practical advantage.